There's an exchange in the movie Airplane II: The Sequel (yes, I watched the 2nd movie, more than once) where there's a crisis and McCroskey asks Jacobs the broad question, "I want to know absolutely everything that's happened up till now." Jacobs starts out by telling him, "well, let's see, first the earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat so they all died." McCroskey just walks away while Jacobs continues rambling about how Prince Charles started wearing all of Lady Di's clothes. To this day, I don't know why that line sticks in my head, but it does. Sort of like the theme song to Green Acres.
I mention that because it reminds me of what can be a slippery slope during any IT strategy conversation. The task is trying to extract the right information, and the right amount of information, from the oh so chatty IT folks.
When attempting to understand and help develop an IT strategy for your customer, there are specific conversations that need to happen first, which will enable your team to make sense of the current situation and provide them with the basics they'll need to design the proper strategy.
I like to focus on the following as a starting point:
Relationship between IT and the Business
Quite simply, does IT have a seat at the table with the other C-Suite executives and do they have input into the overall Corporate Strategy? If not, perhaps IT is thought of as just a service provider to the business, required to keep building what they ask for with little to no thought in regards to IT strategy and how technology can enable the business to succeed. This will provide good insight into who the decision makers and influencers are at the organization and what flexibility you have when suggesting the technology solution and the principles/tactics that accompany it, such as hosting and master data management.
Technology State of the Union
By this I simply mean, what systems are you using today, how are they related, and how well are they working for your business? Drawing a simple system diagram on the white board and connecting the dots will give you great insight into the current system landscape. From this you'll be able to get a good idea of how they're using technology, what is packaged software vs. home grown, how many customizations have been performed, how does each system interact with one another, and who are the main users of each system. Having this complete picture, even at a high level, helps us to understand what kind of tangled web we're about to step into and provides insight into how they view and approach technology.
The previous item can often lead to a hosting discussion and will shed light on whether or not they have a strategy or even a preference. If the client hosts everything on-premise and has a large infrastructure staff dedicated to keeping the systems up and running, is that still their preferred strategy or just legacy? There was a time before electricity was a commodity that the most profitable businesses were those that could produce their own power (see Burden's Wheel in the book "The Big Switch" by Nicholas Carr). But as large scale electric utilities made power available to the masses, the skill of the workers and quality of the product determined what businesses were the most successful, not just who had access to power.
A conversation about hosting strategy will help shape how we proceed in meeting a client's needs. It will also help you uncover if there are any legal or regulatory compliance requirements, data residency considerations, or performance requirements that may influence the technology hosting strategy.
These are just three of the high-level conversations I like to focus on before proceeding to conversations around the state of data, number of users, security requirements, etc. But they will tell you a lot about the client's IT strategy and be foundational for future discussions and considerations.
Through Tribridge's IT excellence solutions, we develop IT strategies and work with customers to implement the right strategies for their business. To learn more about how your organization can develop and implement an IT strategy that is right for you, reach out to Tribridge for help.